Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2004
There ARE Tigers in Africa (*)

Zunaid Kazi
All the nay-sayers and doom-and-gloom merchants are now quiet. Granted Zimbabwe is not the strongest ODI team in the world today. According to the ICC Test Championship Rating they are 9th with a rating of 66. Bangladesh holds the wooden spoon ranked 11th, even below Kenya who does not yet have Test Status. Prior to this game our rating was 0.

The last time we won was a very long 5 years ago. That 1999 win against Pakistan at the world cup was not completely satisfying. The win was forever tainted by rumors and innuendos about match fixing that has not gone away.

This win we can savor.

Zimbabwe has always been strong at home. While their VB series outing in Australia was not spectacular, we must remember that they were up against arguably the two best ODI team currently playing. They had a hard fought 2-3 loss in the 5 ODI series against Lara and company. Their pitches are more suited to pace than spin. Even Streak was quoted as saying, Bangladesh may have a chance only in a rain shortened game.

And we came through.

And most wonderfully, it was through a team effort. Unlike our previous outings early fall of wickets didn't force the batsmen into their usual shells and crawl to a not-defendable total. After Alok Kapali and Shahriar Hossain fell and we were 2-20, our team didn't give up heart. Habibul Bashar overcome his woeful form in the test series and played a captain's knock of 61 wonderfully supported by our ever-so-dependable Rajin Saleh who with his own half century consolidated and set the stage for a good score. And then came Ashraful. Back from the wilderness and back in form he hit a sizzling 51* in 32 balls - the fastest half century of any Bangladeshi in ODIs. Khaled Mahmud, back in the team to the consternation of quite a few, hit a rapid-fire 22 off 16 balls with a magnificent 6. Khaled Mashud also chipped in 11 off 9. And all of a sudden we had a score we could defend.

Something happened that we hadn't quite seen before.

We had actually accelerated our run rate as the overs went by even after a not-so-bright start. Consider this:

Bangladesh 50 in 17.5 overs = 2.9

Bangladesh 100 in 27.5 overs = 3.63

Bangladesh 150 in 40.2 overs = 3.73

Bangladesh 200 in 45.5 overs = 4.40

Bangladesh 237 in 50 overs = 4.74

We started the defense well, with Flower pegged back in the 4th over. But then Rogers and Carlisle took over the battle, putting on 109 in about 18 overs and the game seemed to be slipping away. But our bowlers fought back. Keeping generally to good line and length they kept the pressure on and one by one the wickets kept falling. From a asking rate of just over 4, the rate started inching up for the Zimbabweans. In between, we saw some magnificent fielding with the catch by Hannan Sarker of Ervine off of Mahmud must be remembered for a long time.

And something happened that we hadn't quite seen before. The team did not cave in to the pressure. Zimbabwe did. Consider Tareq Aziz's last over: He kept his head, almost had a hat-trick and brought home the victory.

I think we may have crossed the proverbial Rubicon with this win. First of all, we have excised the memory of the loss against Canada in the last world cup. More importantly, it was the team that won. Dav Whatmore's mantra of "individual improvements" can now be a mantra of "team improvements".

But most importantly, we have savored the sweet taste of victory.

To use a gory analogy, like the Royal Bengal Tigers after which we are named, once we have tasted flesh we can never go back.

The Tigers are in the hunt now. Watch out.

(*) With apologies to Mark Banfield. He used this title in a post in to announce the win.